Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism

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Thesis Statements

The following thesis statements are intended to generate thought and discussion. They are purposely provocative, although some more than others; you may agree or disagree with them, although you should be able to offer evidence for your responses.

Chapter One: The Consumer

Thesis Statement 1:

American culture, and Western culture in general, may be characterized as the culture of capitalism, or more specifically consumer capitalism, and American society may be characterized as the society of perpetual growth.

Thesis Statement 2:

The core premise of the culture of consumer capitalism is that commodity consumption is the source of well-being.

Thesis Statement 3:

The central roles in the culture of capitalism are the consumer, the laborer, and the capitalist, each operating according to a set of rules orchestrated and enforced by the nation-state.

Thesis Statement 4:

The culture of capitalism and the society of perpetual growth require for the their maintenance the exploitation of most of the world's resources and peoples.

Thesis Statement 5:

It is central to the successful operation of the culture of capitalism that the consumer be segregated or masked from the consequences of his or her lifestyle on the laborer, on the environment, and on the way of life of those whose degradation makes his or her life possible.


Chapter 2: The Laborer

Thesis Statement 6:

Profit in a capitalist culture comes largely from the capitalist's control of the surplus value of labor.

Thesis Statement 7:

The whole process of capital investment, making a profit, finding the cheapest labor, and so on represents what Karl Marx called commodity fetishism in which the real source of profits and the non-economic consequences of capitalism are largely hidden from view.

Thesis Statement 8:

Racism and sexism are direct consequences of the process of the segmentation of labor, and the requirement in the culture of capitalism to provide a ready source of cheap labor.

Thesis Statement 9:

There is an inherent tendency of laborers to resist the discipline imposed on them by capitalists.

Thesis Statement 10:

As in the creation of the consumer, children are among the main victims in the process of the creation of the laborer.


Chapter 3: The Capitalist

Thesis Statement 11:

In the course of the expansion of the culture of capitalism, there has been a growing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, a concentration that is the direct result of the workings of the capitalist economy.

Thesis Statement 12:

In the course of the development of the culture of capitalism, there has been a marked change in the organization of capital and how it is controlled. The result is that only a few organizations control vast wealth and are able to dictate the nature of social, political, economic, and cultural life.

Thesis Statement 13:

One of the dominant historical trends has been the growing integration of the global economy, to the extent that anything that happens in one area of the world has repercussions in all others.

Thesis Statement 14:

In the process of providing financial support to stricken economies, the IMF is essentially reducing the risks of international financial investors, while, at the same time, transferring the suffering to ordinary citizens of stricken countries.

Thesis Statement 15:

Democracy, as a system of government, has been largely superseded by the operation of the global economy; the principle of one person, one vote, has largely been replaced by a system where people vote with their dollars.


Chapter 4: The Nation-State

Thesis Statement 16:

The most important function of the nation-state in the culture of capitalism is the regulation of trade and commerce within and without its borders, and to provide for the orderly production, distribution, and sale of commodities.

Thesis Statement 17:

In order to provide the economic integration required for the smooth functioning of the economy, the modern state must convince its populace that they share a common culture or destiny. This is accomplished largely through the state control of mandatory education.

Thesis Statement 18:

Those individuals and groups that call into question the myth of the nation-state or who refuse to be assimilated into it are generally subject to extermination; or as Pierre L. van den Berghe said, "The terror and horror of mass genocidal killing are not aberrations of the modern state; they are in the very nature of it. We live in an era of routinized holocausts."

Thesis Statement 19:

The nation-state will soon be replaced by new institutions, the most important being the transnational corporation.

Thesis Statement 20:

The growth in importance of the non-governmental organization (NGO), or the non-profit sector, is largely the result of the withdrawal of the state from the provision of services (health, education, welfare, etc.) that it had, traditionally, provided.


Chapter 5 Population

Thesis Statement 21:

"Short of nuclear war itself, population growth is the gravest issue the world faces. If we do not act, the problem will be solved by famine, riots, insurrection and war." -Robert McNamara, Former President of the World Bank

Thesis Statement 22:

Most of the problems faced by countries in the periphery, such as poverty, hunger, and environmental destruction, are the consequences of excessive population growth.

Thesis Statement 23:

The specter of population growth is a device used in the culture of capitalism to shift the blame for global problems to their victims, and to obscure the real cause, perpetual and uneven economic growth.

Thesis Statement 24:

Family structure and the status of women in society are the prime determinants of fertility and population growth.


Chapter 6: Poverty and Hunger

Thesis Statement 25:

Since food in the culture of capitalism is simply one of hundreds of thousands of commodities, hunger is largely a matter of people not having enough money to purchase it.

Thesis Statement 26:

The evolution of agriculture in the culture of capitalism is characterized by the steadily increasing concentration of agricultural wealth (land and factors of production), and the growing dependency of the many on the few.

Thesis Statement 27:

Programs of so-called "food aid" (e.g. Food for Peace or Public Law 480) are simply ways that the state funnels tax dollars to agribusiness, increases the influence of food aid organizations, and promotes the ruin of small, local food growers.

Thesis Statement 28:

The fact that people are starving to death because they haven't the money to buy food is obscured by calling starvation "malnutrition," and treating it as a medical problem.

Thesis Statement 29:

The major solution to hunger is by building entitlements and focusing on the economic well-being of women.


Chapter 7: Consumption and the Environment

Thesis Statement 30:

There exists a global environmental crisis, and consumption or consumerism (overdevelopment and the culture of capitalism) is the major, if not the only, cause.

Thesis Statement 31:

Our consumption needs, and even our eating habits, are formed largely to fill the needs of economic expansion and maintain the society of perpetual growth.

Thesis Statement 32:

It is not only impossible to sustain the culture of capitalism at its present rate of consumption, but the expansion of that culture and its consumption habits to other areas of the globe will vastly accelerate environmental collapse.

Thesis Statement 33:

Given the nature of the culture of capitalism, it is impossible to halt the destruction of the environment.



Chapter 8: Disease

Thesis Statement 34:

Every culture or age has its characteristic illness and disease; for the culture of capitalism, characteristic diseases are those linked to poverty, hunger, and environmental devastation, and the increasing disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor.

Thesis Statement 35:

From a microbial perspective, the culture of capitalism has created the ideal environment for the development and spread of infectious disease.

Thesis Statement 36:

AIDS, above all illnesses, is the signature disease of the culture of capitalism.

Thesis Statement 37:

It is likely that within the next two decades, the world will experience a plague not unlike those that swept Europe in the fourteenth century, and, perhaps, not unlike that which stuck the New World at the time of European contact.



Chapter 9: Indigenous People and Ethnic Conflict

Thesis Statement 38:

The cultures of indigenous peoples are vulnerable to destruction from capitalist expansion partially because their way of life differs so significantly from that in the culture of capitalism.

Thesis Statement 39:

A careful examination of the conditions of indigenous peoples before and after their incorporation into the world market economy,

leads to the conclusion that their standard of living is lowered, not raised, by economic progress--and often to a dramatic decline. This is perhaps the most outstanding and inescapable fact to emerge from the years of research that anthropologists have devoted to the study of culture change and modernization. (Emphasis added) John Bodley

Thesis Statement40:

If, instead of needy dependents living largely outmoded ways of life, we appreciate the resemblance between indigenous societies and a modern, socially responsible corporation that carefully manages its resources, provides well for its workers, and plans for the long-term rather than the short term, we are better able to appreciate why indigenous societies can't survive.

Thesis Statement 41:

If we examine cases of purported "ethnic conflict" we generally find that it involves more than "ancient hatred;" even the "hatreds" we find are relatively recent, and constructed by those ethnic entrepreneurs taking political advantage of situations rooted in colonial domination and fed by neo-colonial exploitation.

Thesis Statement 42:

There are few nation-states in which one group or another is not striving for greater representation, and few states which are not, in one way or another, answering those demands with force or the threat of force.


Chapter 10: Peasant Protest

Thesis Statement 43:

Capitalism is revolutionary in the sense that to foster perpetual growth, it must constantly revolutionize the factors of production, promote ever increasing consumption, and , consequently, regularly modify patterns of social, political, and economic relations.

Thesis Statement 44:

In the development of the culture of capitalism, there have been winners and there have been losers. Among the biggest losers are peasant or small-scale agriculturists, and, along with them, those dependent on wage labor, most women, most children, along with other groups who have been deprived of steady and viable employment.

Thesis Statement 45:

The goal of most peasant resistance is not necessarily to overthrow a system of oppression or domination, but, rather, to survive. The usual goal of peasants is "working the system to their minimum disadvantage." James Scott

Thesis Statement 46:

Colonial oppressors are apt not to recognize the suffering their oppression causes, and generally see protest as the illegitimate actions of a few.

Thesis Statement 47:

Given the structure of the modern economy, peasant or small-scale agriculture cannot survive.


Chapter 11: Antisystemic Protest

Thesis Statement 48:

The various forms of social protest such as workers organizations and strikes, national liberation, civil rights, feminist, militia, environmental, and fundamentalist religious movements can all be understood as reactions to the expansion of the culture of capitalism.

Thesis Statement 49:

Virtually all social protest may be seen as emerging from the two world revolutions, the one in 1848 and the one in 1968.

Thesis Statement 50:

Labor protest tends to emerge in industries that are marginally profitable, and that try to squeeze a profit by minimizing wages and scrimping on any safety measures that require capital expense.

Thesis Statement 51:

The subjugation of women is rooted in the patterns of economic exploitation endemic to the culture of capitalism.

Thesis Statement 52:

Contrary to Garrett Hardin's thesis of "the tragedy of the commons," communally held land, especially in the periphery, tends to be better preserved and regulated than privately owned resources.


Chapter 12: Religious Protest

Thesis Statement 53:

Religious antisystemic movements seek either the removal or destruction of what they believe is an immoral culture, a withdrawal from it, or the forceful or voluntary adoption of people of a new way of life.

Thesis Statement 54:

Indigenous religious movements, such as the Zionist movement among the Tshidi in South Africa, serve as a refuge and emblem for those who are marginalized by the expansion of capitalist culture

Thesis Statement 55:

The cultures represented by large-scale fundamentalist religious movements remain the only legitimate challengers to the global domination of capitalist culture.

Thesis Statement 56:

Protestant fundamentalism in Latin America is largely a conservative reaction to the emergence of Liberation Theology, and its critique of the culture of capitalism.


Chapter 13: Futuristic Projections

Thesis Statement 57:

The future of capitalism must be marked by the continuing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and the growing impoverishment of the many.

Thesis Statement 58:

Since the culture of capitalism must continually destroy the environment, expand economic hardship, and create continual conflict and resistence, it must inevitably collapse and be replaced by either a socialist world government or highly localized, independent, and self-sufficient cultures.


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